‘Breaking Chinese stereotypes and becoming a digital nomad: bring it on!’

For Rotterdam-born and -raised Melissa Cheung, Senior Manager for Accenture Technology, joining Accenture marked the start of her first “real” job after graduating from the Delft University of Technology. ‘As a kid, I had this romantic picture of what it would be like to work for a big company. Lots of traveling was definitely part of that picture.' Fast forward to today and Melissa has been working for Accenture for over eight years and aims to travel as much as she can in her free time.
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Proving Chinese stereotypes wrong

‘You know that stereotype about how all Asian people who come to Europe end up as restaurant owners? Well, there’s some truth to that in my case: my grandfather ran a Chinese restaurant in Rotterdam. My mother left Hong Kong when she was four years old, so she has basically spent her whole life in Rotterdam. My dad, on the other hand, has a different story: he came to Amsterdam to study and decided to stay. Because I’ve lived my whole life here, I have always felt more Dutch than Chinese, even though my parents definitely wove aspects of Chinese culture into my upbringing. When people meet me for the first time, they almost always automatically start speaking English to me, and are then somewhat surprised when they hear my slight Rotterdam accent.’

When people meet me for the first time, they almost always automatically start speaking English to me.

Another Chinese stereotype: growing up as the child of Hong Kong-born parents meant getting good grades at school was a priority. Luckily, my parents didn’t have to push me too hard, but I do reckon that this is for sure one aspect that formed my personality and defined my drive. I departed from Chinese culture and tradition even further by not having a broad community of Chinese friends growing up, like most Chinese children did. Also, I married a Dutchman, Onno.’ 

‘When I introduced Onno to my family, it definitely raised a few eyebrows. Even though my parents always gave me the freedom to make my own decisions, I know they secretly - not always so secretly - hoped I would bring home a nice Chinese guy. Onno is anything but that: he’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed man from Amsterdam - oops. We got married a couple of years ago, twice. We had a Dutch wedding here for all our friends and family, and then we had a traditional Chinese celebration in the village near Hong Kong where my family is from. The whole town was invited to this one - as is customary - so there were 200 people at our wedding who we had never even seen before. It was quite entertaining to see the reaction of our guests whenever Onno said something in Cantonese - they all applauded and cheered for him!’

Portrait Melissa Cheung - Senior Manager, Accenture Technology - Couple

Romanticizing corporate work

‘Unlike my grandfather (and the stereotype), my parents didn’t run a Chinese restaurant. Instead, both worked in IT. My dad owned an IT company, and my mom worked there as a sales manager. Despite my interest in gaming and computers, I didn’t necessarily aspire to follow in their footsteps.'

'During high school, I leaned more towards medicine, an avenue many of my friends planned to explore. Ultimately though, I ended up studying Computer Science in Delft, motivated in part by the romantic picture I had of working for a large global firm and in part by my ambition to travel that led me to study Computer Science in Delft. I figured working for a big global company would broaden my horizons in every sense of the phrase.’

‘What did that romantic picture look like? Well, it involved dressing smart and hopping on a plane every other week to participate in interesting projects around the world - something along those lines. But in reality, aside from a traineeship I did in Bangalore, India during my studies, further travel has been limited. I think there are good opportunities to work abroad, but so far, the projects I’ve been working on have been stimulating enough to make me feel like I’m right where I need to be. Moreover, I’m also not required to dress smartly every day anymore, thanks to the millennials and their plea for people to wear sneakers and dress casually. As fate would have it, working life turned out to be just fine and exciting without the traveling.’ 

Portrait Melissa Cheung - Senior Manager, Accenture Technology - Profile

Traveling outside of work

‘It wasn't necessarily a deliberate choice to stay in the Netherlands and live a more regular, "stable" life, but that’s just what happened. I probably owe that to my parents, who have always made a point of stressing how stability should be cherished. Also, these days I realize that when you go on work trips, you actually spend the vast majority of the time working; it’s not like you have all these free hours to explore the place you’re visiting.’ 

I’d still be very open to working abroad for a few years if the opportunity presents itself.

‘I’d preferably do so in an Asian country - I love how that region is still booming and developing so rapidly. The Asian culture also appeals to me greatly, as do the sunny climate, great food and friendly people.’ 

Peace of mind

‘There’s quite a significant difference between the Melissa who started at Accenture and the Melissa who works there today. In the beginning, I was extremely ambitious and hungry to do, learn and try as many new things as possible. While I, of course, still have that drive and energy, I had a bit of a change of heart about three years ago, when I realized work isn’t everything and that I shouldn’t lose sight of the other things that are important to me.'

I was extremely ambitious and hungry to do, learn and try as many new things as possible.

'I took some time to reflect and ask myself questions like: “What exactly do I want to do? Is this it? How do I ensure I keep doing what I enjoy most?” It took a while for me to understand that the world wouldn’t stop turning if I didn’t give every bit of myself to work every second of the day. I also realized that there are smarter ways to work hard. This shift in thinking has given me peace of mind and helped me to feel more content with where I am.’

Portrait Melissa Cheung - Senior Manager, Accenture Technology - Profile

At Accenture, we believe finding the right role for your background, skills and passions is crucial. That way, you get the most out of your career, and we can see what you’re really made of. Read more about why Accenture is a great place to work at www.werkenbijaccenture.nl

‘One of the reasons I love working for Accenture is because I get to witness the transformation this company is going through, up close and personal. The way the business has moved from the traditional waterfall model that saw us gradually implementing new technology to a much more dynamic, agile way of working is fascinating. And it’s especially rewarding when you feel you can personally influence that transformation, which I feel I can - to a certain extent, at least.'

'Being part of the Liquid Studio Utrecht and this new way of working feels very rewarding. We look at the latest technology and innovations and try to think up ways they can be used to enhance user experience and further develop the field. Just getting to see what’s possible in the realms of new technology, automation, blockchain technology, and big data, and the impact it can have, is very exciting.’

Just getting to see what’s possible in the realms of new technology, automation, blockchain technology, and big data, and the impact it can have, is very exciting.

The attractive life of a digital nomad

‘If Onno and I ever won the lottery, buying a small condo on a beach somewhere would be one of the many things we would do. The digital nomad lifestyle appeals to me: I can see us settling someplace where we can work on our laptops for a few hours every day - if required - and then grab our surfboards and head out on the water when the swell is right. Ever since I picked up skateboarding when I was younger, I’ve been obsessed with all sports involving a board: surfing, kitesurfing, snowboarding. Over the past few years, Onno and I have surfed the seas around New Zealand, Australia, Lanzarote, Chile and Portugal. And a kitesurfing holiday in Morocco.’ 

Ever since I picked up skateboarding when I was younger, I’ve been obsessed with all sports involving a board.

‘Even though I have to commute every day, I still choose to live in Rotterdam. That’s why we’ve bought our first house here. I think Rotterdam is perfect as far as cities go: I love its “edgy” feel and the fact that you can escape the buzz here, unlike in centers like Amsterdam and Utrecht, which always feel so busy and crowded. There’s just something calming about this place. It would be the perfect home base to return to when living the digital nomad lifestyle every now and again. After all, the world is becoming more connected than ever before, which should make room for this way of living and working, even within a corporate context, right? So I say: bring it on!’  

Portrait Melissa Cheung - Senior Manager, Accenture Technology - Couple

Melissa Cheung (1986)

Studied: MSc Computer Science: Information Architecture, Delft University of Technology (2010)

Started working at Accenture: November 2010

Relationship status: Married to Onno 

Loves: Being in nature hiking or on a board: in the mountains or the ocean

Gets annoyed by: People who are unreliable and don’t follow through on promises

Favorite food: Takayama Hida beef 

On my nightstand: My phone

Listens to: Trip-hop, jazz and indie

Last purchase: Flights to Yosemite National Park 

Would like to sit next to in the plane: DJ Krush (famous Japanese trip-hop DJ)

Life-changing event: The realization that work isn’t everything and that it’s important to enjoy life 

The best lesson life has taught me: Always prioritize what really matters to you in life 

What I learned last week:  When you open yourself up to it, you can get the most valuable feedback 

Most beautiful place on earth: Patagonia

Hobbies/passions: Eating out, traveling, and any sports involving a board

What nobody knows about me: That I am quite organized at the office, but anything but (organized) at home. I put all my post straight into a drawer and only sort through it about once a year

Life motto: Just enjoy life! 

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Author: Inge Abraham